The past week my Twitter feed was overcome with South by Southwest, and my bookmarks are overflowing with blog posts to read on new innovations, ideas, and recaps. I was excited to see what came out of SxSW after reading this preview from Bloomberg on the prominence of health: South by Southwest Geekfest Veers From Social Media to Health. While I didn’t make the trek down to Austin (some day!), I did learn a few things from following conversations (#sxswi #sxswh #SXDigiHealth #sxehealth) about health and health innovation, which seemed to be as much in the spotlight as Pinterest and Austin’s culinary scene (maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but it certainly was a hot topic).
This stat from RazorFish Health kept popping up, over and over, again: The average 24 year-old will spend more time on Facebook than they will with their doctor in 20 years.
Sounds pretty crazy, right? While I’ve spent some time on Facebook in my day, it only took one hand to count the number of times I’ve even seen a doctor in the past year. One of those times happened to be this week: When finishing my visit, my doctor, going over next steps, said she would email with my lab results and confirmed my e-mail address was correct. This is great!, I thought, no immediate follow-up appointment, no voice mail to listen to, and I would have them in an easy-to-reference place. Sure enough, my lab results came two days later via email (well, via email through a portal, but at least we’re headed in the right direction).
The only issue? I only received lab results. No explanation, no “take a look and let me know if you have questions, but everything looks great”… just me, my iPhone, some wonky lab results, and trusty Google to figure out what I was reading.
In the past few years, health technology has come along way: you can take your pulse on your iPhone, Skype with your doctor, get SMS nudges for a healthy pregnancy or smoking cessation, and the list goes on. More and more there are devices, take the FitBit or Nike Fuel, for example, that are helping people track their overall health. Needless to say, taking social and technological innovations and applying them to making health information and health care more accessible and efficient has only just started. Which is great, because speaking for best practices, when disseminating messages, it’s understood that you want to meet people where they are already getting information. For my generation, and probably many others, we’re not getting our health information from spending time at the doctor’s office like people used to. If I’m feeling lousy, admittedly, the first thing I do is Google my symptom, hoping that some Advil and rest will cure whatever the ailment may be. The last thing I want to do is try to find a doctor’s appointment- it’s hard to get an appointment, it takes time from my already busy day, and overall, just feels like a hassle, even though I know that my cough that lingered for a month would have been solved pretty quickly had I picked up the phone and got in to see the doctor.
So, while healthcare has certainly come a long way in the past few years, as far as accessibility to information and care, it still has a long way to go. We need to get a better handle on what we’re currently doing, and continue to innovate, think of these alternatives:
Let’s start simple: my doctor could have easily relieved my natural worst-case-scenario, over-dramatization read of the lab results by adding a quick note explaining what they meant with the lab results. To be a bit bolder, instead of getting an e-mail to check the message on a website that I can never remember my password for, perhaps we create, and more importantly, train, doctors on how to communicate with patients through Facebook: You have a Friend Request from Dr. Doogie Howser. This gets back to meeting people where they are, instead of continuing to create new apps or technology, let’s innovate what we currently have. Facebook isn’t going away anytime soon, let’s see what else it can do. The innovation also needs to made around privacy considerations, but that’s a whole other blog post.
And as patients, let’s meet doctor’s half way, they are the experts after-all.
PS. In case you missed it, our own Ogilvy Notes was in Austin to capture all the could-not-miss content and news. Among other sessions, they checked out the Wireless Wellness: Apptastic or Just Fun and Games? session with All Things Digital’s Ina Fried and Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini.